Wednesday, February 14, 2024

It's not just Engineering (the drowning dog story)

I regularly head down to a small marina near my home where I can get a waterfront property experience without paying ridiculous property tax.  When it's chilly, I sit in the car. When it warms up, I opt for sitting on a bench or on the sand.  No matter where I settle, though, the time brings much needed quiet and a temporary break from the many distractions that are abundant at home, at work, and in life.   

While the golf carts come and go, I can sit for hours, working, reading, meditating, or otherwise enjoying the peace embodied by mild ocean breezes and calm waters. Except when the hurricanes roll in... but that's an entirely different set of stories.  

Yesterday, I rolled into my little marina on an overcast and chilly day. I was the only car in the small parking lot, save for an oversized pick-up truck that had managed to consume three entire parking spots by parking perpendicular to the diagonals.  That's also an entirely different set of comments and stories.  

Parked and warm, I settled into writing while the rhythmic sounds of the bay and the lack of distractions settled my mind and kept me focused.  My concentration was broken by an elderly gentleman rapping on the driver's side window.  I cautiously opened the window to see what the commotion was and learned that the man's dog had fallen off the edge of the seawall. He had turned to me for help because I was the only person around (the large pick-up had since departed).  

Not sure what to expect and unfortunately suspicious of the man's intentions, I left the car, locked it, and headed over to the seawall.  There was no dog to be seen in the water anywhere. I asked a few questions and then set out with the gentleman to find the dog.  After a few minutes, he returned to his boat, calling out for his dog, understandably panicked. I roamed further along the seawall and finally heard splashing -- a sound coming from far enough away that I wondered how the dog had gotten so far so fast. 

Locating the dog, I called out to his owner, and lay down, stomach first, on a narrow walkway/pier to reach out to the dog. He was a big guy, about 80 pounds, and had only a bandana on and no harness or collar, creating a tricky situation to keep him afloat and generally in the same location until we could figure out how to pull him out of the water.  By the time his owner found us, the dog had scratched my face in panic and narrowly missed my eye.  I was also a wet, chilly mess.  The gentleman who owned the dog left again almost immediately to retrieve a leash and collar.  The poor dog continued to thrash and rip his pads bloody on oyster shells adhered to the pilings in the water.  There was no easy way to lead the dog to the end of the seawall, a considerable distance away, so my mind started wondering how, when I jumped into the water,  I was going to man-handle the dog well enough to swim him over to safety.  While I was an experienced swimmer, I also had enough experience with dogs in the water to know that it was a risky situation that wasn't necessarily going to turn out well.

In the meantime, the dog's owner was unsuccessful in trying to hoist the dog out of the water by threading the leash under the dog's torso. Both dog and owner were getting more and more panicked as the minutes flew by.  I will never forget the absolutely terrified look on the poor dog's face as it struggled to avoid drowning in its precarious situation.

Indecisive for what seemed like way too long, I finally made a decision and ran back to the car to call 911. The woman at the other end of the phone line had the police en route in less than 30 seconds, but then insisted that I stay on the phone and answer more questions even after I repeated several times that I needed both hands and arms to help the dog's owner keeps he dog alive while we waited for the police to arrive. In a bizarre act of bureaucracy, she insisted I stay on the line.

A police car arrived quickly. I waved the officer over to where owner and dog were still struggling. The officer and owner managed to get the collar on the dog and slowly (and painfully) pull him out of the water.  Poor doggie....dripping blood from his paws and water everywhere. 

While I felt badly that I wasn't strong enough to pull the 80 pound, wildly  panicked canine out of the water, I was grateful for this police officer who showed up so quickly and was strong enough to pull him out of the water.  Such a relief to see the dog shake and to watch as the look of terror and fear disappeared from his furry black face.

Then, as if the situation weren't bizarre or surreal enough, I noticed that officer and owner were having a follow-up, chatty dialogue that included much gratitude for each other.  In that dialogue, I had become completely invisible.  Standing there, with an ugly red scratch on my face, shivering with hair still soggy and wet from the episode of panicked splashing, I just watched them, both surprised and not surprised. 

In that moment, I returned to all those many times in my career in engineering where I had stood in a meeting, a social, or other event, waiting for two men to acknowledge my presence.  To perhaps even include me in the conversation as would be polite professional protocol.  But instead, both now and then, after being ignored for minutes and pondering the awkwardness of the situation, I would finally walk away.  

As I walked away, climbed into my car, turned the heat up as high as it would go, and drove away .... I just kept thinking ... well, it's not just engineering, now is it?

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It's not just Engineering (the drowning dog story)

I regularly head down to a small marina near my home where I can get a waterfront property experience without paying ridiculous property tax...